"Our Country!
In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right;
but right or wrong, our country!"

    --Commodore Stephen Decatur

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Le Roi Soleil

Daylight Saving Time begins this weekend. Congress, with its usual hubris, believes that by forcing us all to change our clocks a month early, it can actually create sunlight. Lest you think I exaggerate, here is the relevant quote from a press release by the bill’s sponsor, Fred Upton (R-MI):

The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use. It is that simple. Not only will Americans have more light at their disposal during March and November days, we will also be keeping our energy consumption as a nation down.

If this were not an elected official with real power to affect the lives of the American people, this would be hilarious. However, WebMD reports that the real impact of Daylight Saving Time is about as funny as a heart attack--literally:

When researchers in Sweden examined the impact of daylight saving time on heart attack rates in that country, they discovered that people had slightly fewer heart attacks on the Monday after they set their clocks back in the fall and slightly more heart attacks in the days after they set their clocks ahead in the spring.

As for the predicted savings, computer geeks around the world had to scramble to patch all the databases and servers that keep the world running in an effort comparable to the Y2K bug. By some estimates, the cost to businesses for the 2007 DST changes was anywhere from $200 million to $1 billion.

To make matters worse, the new dates for the big switch are nothing more than a massive national experiment. According to the bill’s text, “Not later than 9 months after the effective date stated in subsection (b), the Secretary [of Energy] shall report to Congress on the impact of this section on energy consumption in the United States.”

The result of the study? The nation saved an incredible 0.03% of electricity consumption in 2007. The national average retail price for electricity in 2007 was 9.13 cents per kilowatt-hour, which translates to a total savings of roughly $119 million. At that rate, it could take up to a decade for businesses to recoup their losses.

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